Vermont will join the ranks of states allowing the legal sale of marijuana and cannabis products under a bill allowed to pass into law by Gov. Phil Scott without his signature on Wednesday.

The Berkshire Eagle reports The Governor in choosing to allow S. 54 to pass into law, asked the Legislature to make additional changes and improvements in January when it returns, namely in the areas of addressing the impact of historic racism as part of cannabis prohibition, and in providing more opportunity for women and people of color in the new marketplace.

Scott said:

“This has been a top priority for the majority in the Legislature for four years, but their work is not complete. They must ensure equity in this new policy and prevent their priority from becoming a public health problem for current and future generations.”

That must be followed up by the state to establish its framework for legal sale of products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound that imparts the “high” from cannabis.

Until that framework is in place, Vermont marijuana users remain in a legal limbo, where they can possess a small amount of the substance, but cannot legally buy or sell it. Vermont decriminalized marijuana possession in 2014 and legalized adult possession in 2018.

Scott said the licensing framework in the bill “will disproportionately benefit Vermont’s existing medical dispensaries by giving them sole access to integrated licenses and an unfair head start on market access. ... This creates an inequitable playing held both for our smaller minority and women-owned business applicants, and other small Vermont growers and entrepreneurs.”

Scott, while noting the bill does include some provisions for women- and minority-owned businesses pointed to efforts in Illinois as a model of creating a cannabis market “that is equitable and moves toward economic justice.”

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